The internet has been with us for a quarter of a century this year, and has undeniably changed the way we work, play and communicate with one another.
And there is now a generation of children growing up deemed to be Digital Natives’: in other words, they cannot remember a time when you had to run around the village to knock on someone’s door to see if they were coming out to play.
Instead they take to their tablet, fire up Facebook, poke a pal in the virtual world and probably don’t bother going out to play at all.
That in itself is a whole other debate to be had, but on this occasion I am more concerned with online safety for children.
I cannot stress enough that unless parents, grandparents and parental guardians understand what children can be exposed to when they pick up their digital devices, then they haven’t a snowball in Hell’s chance of protecting them from harm.
Approaching the subject with nonchalant bravado is not an option, and I’d like to think the majority of parents are not in that category –Sheffield mum Rachael Harrison certainly isn’t, and yet her nine-year-old daughter Jenna was approached by a stranger whose opening gambit was ‘hey babe’.
Same said person went on in their attempt to trick the child into revealing their personal details, including her name, age, school and so on. That is all information that could give certain types of sinister people enough ammunition to make an approach to a vulnerable and trusting child.
I urge you: please do not let this happen to your children.
The best way to wise up is to enrol in a course. If you’ve no confidence in your own online capability, but know you are responsible for a child at some point, be it permanently or temporarily then you owe it to yourself and the child to get the knowledge that will put you in control of who can and can’t approach your loved ones. Do it tomorrow – you’ll be glad you did.